As cities continue to evolve, emergent trends are reshaping the urban real estate market and precipitating new approaches to urban living which has resulted in innovative new residential developments to meet the growing demand.

“The shifting preferences and needs of urban dwellers are driving significant changes in the property landscape of major metros,” says  Cobus Odendaal, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg and Randburg, adding that they are impacting not only the types of properties being built but also the areas experiencing growth.

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Odendaal says that the transformation is largely being driven by young professionals and millennials who are attracted to the vibrant city lifestyle and job opportunities and their preference for walkable neighbourhoods, access to amenities, and modern, tech-enabled living spaces has begun to influence developers’ choices.

“To a lesser degree, empty-nesters and downsizers are also influencing the market, with many seeking smaller, low-maintenance properties in urban settings and other market drivers are cultural diversity, the desire for cultural experiences and the proximity to educational institutions and healthcare facilities.”

According to Odendaal, one of the most significant prevailing trends currently shaping this market is mixed-use development.

“The concept of live, work, and play within a single neighbourhood appeals to urban dwellers seeking convenience, accessibility, and a sense of community and these developments combine residential, commercial and often retail spaces in the same building or close vicinity, thereby creating vibrant and integrated communities.”

READ: Is your home too big? 4-step guide to downscaling for a better future

Mixed-use developments offer numerous advantages that align with the current needs and desires of urban residents.

Convenience and Walkability: Mixed-use developments prioritise walkability, reducing the need for long commutes and enabling residents to access essential amenities, shops, and services within a short distance. This convenience is particularly appealing to professionals, millennials, and empty-nesters who value time-saving and efficient lifestyles.
Enhanced Sense of Community: The integration of residential and commercial spaces fosters a sense of community. Residents can easily interact with neighbours, shop at local businesses, and participate in community events. This sense of belonging contributes to an enriched urban living experience.
Increased Vibrancy and Diversity: The combination of residential and commercial spaces creates a dynamic environment with a variety of cultural, culinary, and entertainment options. This vibrancy attracts residents and visitors alike, adding value to the real estate market.


With growing environmental awareness, sustainability and green building practices have also become significant factors in urban living.

“Developers are increasingly incorporating eco-friendly features, such as energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, and green roofs, into their projects and green spaces, community gardens and shared outdoor areas are becoming more prevalent in urban developments, providing residents with access to nature and promoting a healthier lifestyle.

He adds that sustainable building practices not only benefit the environment but also attract the growing number of environmentally-conscious buyers.

The integration of technology into urban living has also gained momentum and features like automation systems, energy management tools, and voice-activated devices are becoming more commonplace.

“Buyers are increasingly seeking properties with smart home features that enhance convenience, security, and energy efficiency and the ability to control lighting, heating, and security systems remotely is a significant draw for tech-savvy urban dwellers.”

Odendaal says that in recent years, there has been a notable increase in the development of properties to suit this growing market.

“We’re currently marketing a brand-new development in the heart of Sandton which ticks all the right boxes for these buyers.

“Sandton Platinum Residences boasts 40 floors of luxury urban living, a rooftop pool and amazing views of Africa’s richest mile with the Gautrain Station, Sandton city and a host of other amenities only a short stroll away.

“The property is also powered by new energy technology that ensures that residents no longer have to endure hours of loadshedding. There are also a multitude of services available, from dry cleaning and hair care to creches and restaurants.

“All units are fully furnished, inclusive of appliances and, with prices starting at a very accessible R890 000 and ranging to R5.8M for a penthouse (transfer costs included), they also offer younger buyers an excellent foot onto the property ladder.”

READ: Small living, Big savings | Why downscaling your home might relieve some financial pressure

Tips for downsizing

Laurie WenerPam Golding Properties senior executive for developments in the Cape region, who shared some insights on downscaling in an article published in 2022 says scaling down is never easy.

“While the intention is to reduce the responsibility and cost of a maintaining a large property, enhance security and possibly benefit from more modern design and services, the sentiment attached to the trappings of having raised a family in a home with generous, familiar spaces and the accumulation of material belongings and memories associated with family members, makes scaling down difficult,” she says. 

The challenges come in making the decision to find a suitable property and adjusting to what you really require when the children have moved out.

“My advice is to stay focused on the considerable benefits of lightening the burden of a larger property, the convenience of a more modern and efficient home that is easier to keep well maintained and clean, and quite possibly more secure. Be prepared to refurnish with furniture that is fresh and appropriate for the spaces and also suitable for your personal needs,” says Wener.

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For the more elderly, transfer trauma or relocation stress syndrome is characterised by anxiety, confusion, hopelessness and loneliness. The impact should not be underestimated. If you are considering moving elderly parents into an assisted living scenario counselling is an important part of the process, say the agents.

That said, if you’re excited and ready for this next phase, Little House Lovely Home on Facebook promises that “small homes make wallets fatter, material possessions fewer, relationships stronger, conversations easier, laughter louder, cleaning time shorter and fun times longer”.

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